In 1960, Star and Tribune photographers were assigned to shoot every block of downtown Minneapolis. The pace of change had accelerated in the late ’50s, as urban “renewal” claimed dozens of elderly buildings in the Gateway District.
Perhaps the newspaper’s photographic survey was an attempt to document what was still standing. But it went above and beyond that, leaving a remarkable account of what the city looked like at a time when the urban core was aging, but still vital.
Some of the intersections they shot have changed completely, and only the AARP-eligible can recall what was there. While the city gained many new beautiful buildings, it lost scores of smaller structures, many of which added diversity and character. The block above, Nicollet Avenue between 6th and 7th streets, shows a bustling downtown retail scene. The whole block was demolished for City Center, whose construction began in 1979.
Hey, sis: Three Sisters was a chain of women’s apparel stores, which seems to have left no history. Google it, and you’ll get pictures of old storefronts, or obituaries of ladies who worked there.
Showroom peek: Like most stores of its time, Three Sisters had large display windows. The current occupant of the block, the dour, prefab bunker known as City Center, was built without display windows.
Variety chains: Two old retail rivals: W.T. Grant and S.S. Kresge. Kresge, a variety store common in downtowns large and small, was hit hard by the postwar rise of suburban retail. It fought back with a new type of store you might know: Kmart. W.T. Grant, based in Massachusetts, entered super-duper fatal bankruptcy in 1976, the second largest in U.S. history. One of the causes for their failure was loose credit: They let anyone charge anything, and they kept poor records. Eventually the debt was bought by some local lads, Carl Pohlad and Irwin Jacobs.
Suits and rooms: When this picture was taken, Justers already was more than 50 years old. P.B. Justers started selling suits in 1908 in the Dakotas, and moved to Minneapolis in 1914. Their impressive store was a downtown fixture. The Dyckman was one of downtown’s grand hotels — lavish in 1910 when it checked in its first guest, but tired and outdated after half a century. The Chateau de Paris, its signature restaurant, remained a destination for anniversary dinners until the hotel was demolished in 1979.
Mysterious attic: This atelier boasted a big glass window, but little is now known about it. Was it an artist’s studio? Or just another of the small old structures doomed by the city’s growth?